Even for those just casually aware of the culture of rock music, their social media feeds have likely been spotted with footage from Hell & Heaven Metal Fest in Mexico City last night. For the rest of us that are immersed in the world, the reunion of Pantera has been absolute - arguably drowning out the excitement of the coinciding World Cup. At least in terms of the almighty social media feed.
Earlier this summer, the world heavy music got the news they never thought they would hear. The remaining members of the Texas groove titans in Rex Brown and Phil Anselmo, would come together to perform live under the beloved band name for the first time since their final gig in Yokohoma, Japan on August 26, 2001. Upon the announcement, the countdown began towards the band's first gig back and in months since, the anticipation has only swelled as the band's touring itinerary continues to add dates well into 2023 - even confirming a supporting run with Metallica.
Fans across the world became fixed on Mexico City, a destination long regarded as a haven for heavy culture. As Pantera continued to add shows, their first would ultimately go down on December 2nd as part of Hell & Heaven Metal Fest and it became clear that even with a sizable sense of skepticism lingering from naysayers - this gig was big. Media outlets were even reporting on the band's soundcheck the day prior - what band, regardless of genre, would a soundcheck be newsworthy?
It seemed fitting that the band's first songs back in a live setting came from the album, Vulgar Display of Power. While it was likely more coincidental, given the popularity of the album in the band's catalog - songs like "A New Level" and "Mouth for War" could be interpreted as symbolic - an emphatic statement paired with the reintroduction of one of heavy music's most enduring champions.
In a set that spanned 15 songs, that touched on every era of the Anselmo-led Pantera, fans lucky enough to be in attendance were treated to a masterclass that included ageless essentials like "Fucking Hostile", "5 Minutes Alone" and "Cowboys From Hell". Indicative of the reverence that this reunion has always been treated with, Pantera used their Black Sabbath's cover of "Planet Caravan" to pay tribute to the their brothers in arms, cultural icons and heavy music's truest heroes in the Abbott Brothers Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell. The moment underscored the weight of the performance, the significance of the songs and the impact of the enduring legacy of both departed champions that remains stronger now than ever.
In an evening defined by celebration, with such a historic moment happening in real time - the day after has been a deluge of photos and videos from people offering their first hand account of a set nearly in a generation in the making. The instant gratification of social media is blessing that way. Whether we were there physically or not, all of us as fans got some sense of the palpable excitement that loomed in the air. We all got to feel, even if it was second hand, the kind of crush that comes requisite when songs like "Strength Beyond Strength", "This Love", and "Domination" hit live.
And still... "There can never be another Pantera" seems to be statement all too prevalent during a moment that really should be praised instead of picked apart.
In the days leading up to the performance at Hell & Heaven Fest, the same media outlets that saw fit to cover Pantera's soundcheck, also reported on a statement that was released from the estate of Vinnie Paul Abbott that read, There can never be a PANTERA reunion without Vinnie and Dime. However, there is no better way to celebrate and honor Vinnie and Dime’s legacy, than to bring the music of PANTERA directly to the fans. We are honored that Charlie and Zakk, their very close friends and musical brothers, will share the stage with Philip and Rex, to unleash the power of PANTERA live around the world.
The skeptics, though well intentioned in their allegiance to Dime and Vinnie, saw the first portion of that statement as their affirmation - their "see I told you so" moment. What really mattered however wasn't the obvious statement of how there could never be another Pantera without such generational talents like Dime and Vinnie - it was those words "honor" and "celebrate" that should have stuck most.
Without dispute, there will NEVER be another Dimebag Darrell, nor another Vinnie Paul. With regard to their legacy, the only attribute that exceeded their talent was their gregarious spirit. Their ability was second to none and the fact that the songs they contributed to the culture more than thirty years on still land with such effectiveness further proves that. If you really need evidence, source the countless videos that continue to populate online of Pantera songs being sung by thousands of fans in Mexico City.
If the contention is that this isn't a Pantera reunion. Ok. maybe not.
But that shouldn't detract from the fact that it is a important celebration executed with sincere respect. Zakk Wylde and Charlie Benante have long been a part of the extended family of the band and well-established creative kin to the Abbott brothers. While their ability as musicians has never been called into question, neither should their participation. At no point has the language been about "filling in", but rather revisiting the iconic body of work that they love as contemporaries just as much as we do as fans.
If the idea is to undermine the current iteration of Pantera out of a sense of loyalty to Dime and Vinnie - that is a special kind of dedication. Few artists would ever command that kind of love. However, given what we know about Dime and Vinnie and their ability to always be the life of the party - is there any sense that they would have turned the volume down in Mexico City last night? Given what we know about the love they shared for the fans and their brethren in Benante and Wylde, it's safe to presume the Abbotts likely would have knocked back a few Black Tooth Grins - toasting to the spectacle in seeing literal generations of fans, plural, "Getcha Pull".
There will never be another Pantera. Last night in Mexico City, Rex, Phil, Zakk and Charlie didn't aim to refute that, but rather reveled in that fact. Pantera's current reunion is less about recreating and more about showing reverence for a body of work that has undeniably withstood the test of time. The current iteration honors the legacy of Dime and Vinnie by allowing a whole new era of fans to experience the magnitude of these songs they way they were intended - live and loud as fuck.
Pantera is confirmed to perform at Knotfest Colombia, Knotfest Chile and Knotfest Brazil to close out 2022. The band will be out in support of Metallica as well as their own headlining dates and festival appearances throughout 2023. A full list of dates can be found below.
Dec. 6, 2022 – Monterrey, Mexico @ Metal Fest
Dec. 9, 2022 – Bogota, Colombia @ Knotfest
Dec. 11, 2022 – Santiago, Chile @ Knotfest
Dec. 12, 2022 – Santiago, Chile @ Theater Coliseo
Dec. 15, 2022 – Sao Paulo, Brazil @ Vibra (With Judas Priest)
Dec. 18, 2022 – Sao Paulo, Brazil @ Knotfest
May 26, 2023 – Sofia, Bulgaria @ Armeets Arena
May 27, 2023 – Bucharest, Romania @ Metalhead Mtg
May 30, 2023 – Budapest, Hungary @ Barba Negra
May 31, 2023 – Vienna, Austria @ Gasometer
June 2-4, 2023 – Nurburg, Germany @ Rock Am Ring
June 2-4, 2023 – Nuremberg, Germany @ Rock Im Park
June 5, 2023 – Lodz, Poland @ Atlas Arena
June 8-10, 2023 – Hyvinkaa, Finland @ RockFest
June 10, 2023 – Solvsborg, Sweden @ SwedenRock
June 12, 2023 – Prague, Czech Republic @ O2 Arena
June 13, 2023 – Berlin, Germany @ Verti Music Hall
June 15, 2023 – Copenhagen, Denmark @ Copenhell
June 21, 2023 – Hamburg, Germany @ Edel Optics
June 22-24, 2023 – Oslo, Norway @ Tons of Rock
Aug. 4, 2023 – E. Rutherford, N.J. @ MetLife Stadium ^
Aug. 11, 2023 – Montreal, Canada @ Olympique ^
Aug. 18, 2023 – Arlington, Texas @ AT&T Stadium ^
Aug. 25, 2023 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ SoFi Stadium ^
Sept. 1, 2023 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ State Farm Stadium ^
Nov. 3, 2023 – St. Louis, Mo. @ The Dome ^
Nov. 10, 2023 – Detroit, Mich. @ Ford Field ^
Aug. 2, 2024 – Foxborough, Mass. @ Gillette Stadium ^
Aug. 9, 2024 – Chicago, Ill. @ Soldier Field ^
Aug. 16, 2024 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ U.S. Bank Sta. ^
Aug. 23, 2024 – Edmonton, Canada @ Cmnwlth Sta. ^
Aug. 30, 2024 – Seattle, Wash. @ Lumen Field ^
^ With Metallica